SINGAPORE: A total of 722,865 SMSes have been reported and more than 5,537 phone numbers believed to be used in scams have been blocked on the ScamShield app, since its launch six months ago, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) on Saturday (May 29).
Loan-related scams, as well as sports and betting scams, where scammers use SMSes to promote illegal gambling and online casino betting are among the most common scam types reported on the app, said Assistant Superintendent Paige Tan, senior investigating officer at the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC).
Speaking to the media, ASP Tan added that loan scams are the most common message scams reported on the app. They make up 30 to 40 per cent of the total message scams filtered by the app, she added.
Loan, phishing and China officials impersonation scams were among the top 10 scams reported in Singapore last year, with more than 4,400 reports lodged and more than S$60 million lost to scammers, according to the press release by SPF and NCPC.
These scams are familiar to Ms Reis Chang, who downloaded the ScamShield app about four months ago.
The 23-year-old used to receive one scam call every other day, and about four to five scam messages a week.
“I had been getting a lot of scam calls and messages and I was quite annoyed. Since downloading the app, the number of scam calls and messages I have been getting is close to none,” Ms Chang said.
She also helped her 65-year-old father install the app onto his phone, as he was getting a lot of scam calls from people claiming they were from a bank.
“I find the app quite intuitive, so in terms of onboarding it into my messages, I didn’t have much problem. With regards to reporting (scam numbers), I also found it quite easy and simple,” she added.
Early last month, ASC detected a phishing scam disguised as a job listing, where potential victims were prompted to click on URL links leading to phishing websites. ASC immediately blocked these phishing websites, said SPF and NCPC.
In late April this year, the centre also detected a recurring trend where potential victims received spoof SMSes masquerading as banks, claiming that victims’ bank cards had been suspended and provided contact numbers to call for assistance.
In response, ASC reached out to telecommunication companies to suspend the contact numbers involved.
Of the total reported SMSes and phone numbers, about 10 to 15 per cent are non-scam related reports, said ASP Tan.
“Users can submit any message (or call) they deem to be a scam. We receive submissions where messages aren’t entirely scam related, such as advertisements for tuition, advertisements for condo units, and for private apartments,” said ASP Tan.
“We don’t block all numbers that are being submitted … We will do a lot of background screening before deciding whether to block the number.”
HOW IT WORKS
Once users install ScamShield, they can enable call blocking and SMS filtering through their Settings function on their phone.
Designed specifically to prevent such SMSes and phone calls from reaching mobile users, the app was jointly developed by the NCPC and the Open Government Products team from the Government Technology Agency.
The app identifies and filters out scam SMSes using artificial intelligence, sending these messages to the phone’s junk folder. It also blocks scam calls from phone numbers used in other scam cases or reported by ScamShield users.
Users can report scam calls or SMSes under the Report tab inside the app by listing the scammer’s number and a brief summary of the call or SMS.
However, the app doesn’t apply to scams that come in via other platforms, such as WhatsApp, Telegram or various social media networking sites.
The app - which is currently only available for iOS users on the App Store for free - has been downloaded by more than 119,000 users. An Android version will be announced once it’s ready.